Friday, March 17

Another Frugal Vegas Vacation

After grinding for two months I decided to get away for a few days last week.  Frontier had a great sale on flights and I was able to book a round-trip to Las Vegas for under $200.  I am also visiting Denver for a day for less than $40.  Originally I was not going to rent a car, but the rates make it logical to do so.  Since the hotels I am staying at are not on the strip, public transportation would take forever, and Uber rides would actually cost more than renting a car.

My hotels were free.  This is interesting, because the last time I was in Vegas was six months ago in September.  I didn't do much gambling then, but I did win on that trip because I hit my first and only Royal Flush.  I would love to know how a casino decides what to offer in comps to get players to visit.  I received  4 free nights and $35 in free bets.  Basically all my meals were free by using points accumulated on my player's card.

I never expect to win, but once again I came home with more money than I started.  Virtually all my gambling was on video poker, where I won $300.  My blackjack sessions were break-even.

For the frugal traveler, both Frontier and Spirit have aggressive sales from time to time.  I've signed up to receive email alerts from both companies.

Tuesday, March 7

My Frugal Miser - February Expenses: $4,412


February was a bit expensive.  I paid the $450 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.  This is really a $150 fee with the $300 travel rebate I received.  I also completed a 0% cash advance on a credit card but had to pay a $291 fee for it.

I had several work-related expenses.  We drove to Birmingham to work on a rental property, which used a lot of gas.  I bought a new phone from Wal-Mart to replace my Republic Wireless Moto X.  The new plan is only slightly more expensive, but my Republic phone had 3G and a very slow processor.  I also decided to buy a monthly unlimited car wash plan.  A fancy new car wash opened up about a mile from my house.  Not having a clean car has kept me from driving for Uber and Lyft on some occasions, and I think this might motivate me to do some more rideshare work.  Finally, I bought two new suits.  Some of the hospitality jobs require a business suit, and the only suit I had got a hole in it.  I bought that suit 10 years ago so it was time to replace it anyway.

It seems like I spend money on vacations every month.  Last month I booked an EasyJet flight we will be taking during our summer European vacation.  I also spent $186 on a roundtrip to Las Vegas... and that included $57 I spent to pick a seat.  While there, I'm going to Denver for a day.  That flight was only $38 roundtrip.  Air travel is so cheap!

February Expenses:  $4,412

$891 Auto ($275 gas, $0 repairs/maintenance, $616 depreciation)
$741 Bank Fees
$949 Clothing
$0 Computer
$55 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$383 Food
$41 Gifts Given
$42 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$243 Interest Expense*
$36 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$339 Sharing Economy Expenses (dedicated phone, tolls, car washes, etc.)
$233 Utilities
$396 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In February, I paid $202 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Sunday, March 5

My Frugal Miser - February Income: $8,888


I made a fair amount of money last month.  I had one vacant property (new tenants are moving in April 1st).  We spent a week in Birmingham fixing it up.

Amazon Flex was okay, and I did a few Uber and Lyft rides when I had free time.  The majority of my working time was spent on hospitality jobs.

I don't have any stock sales or dividend payments to report for February.   In my Prosper account one of my loans was written off, which resulted in a negative $51 adjustment to my account.

February Income: $8,888

$1,999 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$116 Uber
$18 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$1,044 Amazon Deliveries
$5,723 Rental Income
($51) Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$0 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$39 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work. 

Monday, February 27

How I Simplified My Life in February

This year I'm trying hard to focus on the things that make my life better.  Something that has been bugging me for some time is how complicated certain areas of my life are.

Specifically, I have too many financial accounts.  Keeping track of everything is stressful.  For example, I almost paid another annual fee on a credit card I intended to cancel.   Just by chance I remembered to look up the anniversary date, and it happened to be the very next day.  That would have been a $95 mistake.  Account canceled!

I also need to get rid of some material things.  Since we moved two years ago, the laundry room has been so full of stuff that, in order to access the back of the room I would have to spend several minutes moving things around just to get to it.  We aren't finished, but I did make more room by eliminating a set of shelves on one wall and taking my former roommate's bicycle to her new place.

What's Next?

I have big plans for March.  Earlier in February we worked on a vacant property in Birmingham.  I spent so much time looking for tools and supplies that I realized I needed to be better organized.  I bought several storage containers that were on clearance at Staples.  I was using deep file boxes for everything, and I will replace them with several smaller containers that will be labeled with the contents in each container.  I also want to get rid of some of the gas cans in the laundry room.  Since I no longer do the massive amount of mystery shopping I used to do, I don't need the equivalent of 80 gallons of storage for the free gas I was getting.

I also want to crank up the remodeling of our house.  We finally removed the old steel bathtub in the guest bathroom.  Demolition is 95% done in that room.  It's time to make this house our home, even if it means bringing in contractors instead of doing everything myself.